Even the tourists speak a different language

Published: June 23rd 2006
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Back to AfricaBack to AfricaBack to Africa

My Iberia flight from Madrid crosses over the Strait of Gibralter and brings me back to African soil (top portion is Spain while the bottom land mass is Morocco).
During my two flights to Morocco (London to Madrid, Madrid to Marrakech), I had images of what it would be like. Exotic foods, wonderful smells, traditionally-clad people.

And the country did not dissapoint. From the moment I landed I was thrown into a mixture of visual stimuli including a desert-esque landscape, traditionally-dressed muslims and extremely white Europeans in town for the weekend vacation. All this coupled with the sounds of French and Arabic being spoken very rapidly. I quickly came to realize that not many people spoke English...thus I would be surrounded by people but feel very alone.

I took a cab to the Medina area of the city in search of a place to stay. It was not long until I found that all the hotels were full as it given the European holiday. I persavered and finally found a small hotel among the maze of alleys that is the Medina. The simple room at the Smara Hotel (right near Hotel Essaouira) was 100 Dinah per night (about $13)...use of the shared shower was additional (5 dinah for cold, 10 for hot).

I set out with great excitement to explore the city. A few turns and twists
Freshly SqueezedFreshly SqueezedFreshly Squeezed

There are over a dozen of these stands peppered around the Djemaa el-Fna.
along the narrow alleys and I came upon the Djemma el-Fna, the large center square where all the action happens: street performers of all kinds (snake charmers, acrobats, musicians) try to separate tourists from their money while orange juice stand owners yell "try my juice" to the crowds of people milling about. The square is bordered by shops as well as cafes, some with rooftop terraces that are a good spot to sit and watch the circus that is the el-Fna.

It is hard to describe the feeling...but there was something artifical about the scene. The sounds and smells were real...but I almost felt as if I was in the Morocco section of Euro Disney (is there one??). I shook off the thought and headed out to wander further into the Medina. I soon came to realize that Marrakech is a shopper's dreamland with small retail businesses offering everything from shoes to leather goods to spices.

That night I had dinner in the el-Fna which fills up with food stalls (about 40 or so of them) all huddled next to each other. The culinary offerings ranged from grilled meats on skewers to seafood and soups. It was a
Shops GaloreShops GaloreShops Galore

Surrounding the el-Fna are shops offering all kinds of trinkets for tourists to bring home.
cool night as the steam and smoke rose above the stalls from the various cookings. It was a true festive scene as the artists in the el-Fna played their music and did their crafts.

The next morning I set out of the Medina and into the proper city. Once you left the Medina walls it was a modern city. Even a McDonalds for those needing a piece of Americana. I walked and walked but found nothing to capture my interest. I did stumble upon a few camels just outside the Medina walls who were resting in an old olive tree orchard. They were used by locals to give tourists rides.

Once again at night I partook in the festivities that is the el-Fna. This time I ate with four French girls who had taken pity on me at an internet cafe and invited me to dine with them. They spoke a little English...which was very welcome after almost 36-hours of struggling with the few French words I know.

The following day I woke early, got on a bus and headed north to Fes.

Additional photos below
Photos: 21, Displayed: 21


Assault on your sensesAssault on your senses
Assault on your senses

Another shop that is offering wonderful culinary delights.
Spice GuysSpice Guys
Spice Guys

A small stall in the Souq shows off its many spices.
Halls of BahiaHalls of Bahia
Halls of Bahia

I catch two tourists passing at the end of the hall in the Palais de la Bahia.
Dinner in the Djemaa el-FnaDinner in the Djemaa el-Fna
Dinner in the Djemaa el-Fna

Here is one of the 100 or so stalls that prepare tasty dishes for the masses in the large square.
Night in the Djemaa el-FnaNight in the Djemaa el-Fna
Night in the Djemaa el-Fna

The steam from the cooking rises in the cool night air above stall number 26.
Morning CoffeeMorning Coffee
Morning Coffee

I am so grumpy until I have my morning coffee. Here I sit in a small cafe frequented by scooter drivers. The man behind me is very interested in my photo.
Tea TimeTea Time
Tea Time

A man walks down the street carrying a tea set. To whom is he bringing it....??
Old ManOld Man
Old Man

This elderly man relaxes on a bench right outside of the Club Med Medina complex.
Shoppers DreamShoppers Dream
Shoppers Dream

One of the many narrow shopping lanes adjacent to the rear of the Djemaa el-Fna.
Marrakech PagentryMarrakech Pagentry
Marrakech Pagentry

A horse-drawn carriage awaits its next ride with the Kasbah Mosque in the background.

Three dancers perform in the Djemaa el-Fna area.
Laying down on the JobLaying down on the Job
Laying down on the Job

I found these three camels lying down in a field of olive trees just outside the Central Medina area.
Coffee after workCoffee after work
Coffee after work

Here I found an actor having coffee after leaving the set of the new Star Wars movie.
Haulin' AssHaulin' Ass
Haulin' Ass

Some here still use the ancient ways of transportation.
Dinner with the FrenchDinner with the French
Dinner with the French

These girls took pity on me as not many people in the area speak English. We dined at stall #1 in the el-Fna. One of the waiters felt the need to get into the shot.

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